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Should Your Student Study Abroad?

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By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop

Studying abroad is a great experience that many college students enjoy, but it’s not necessarily something that’s a great fit or even feasible for everyone attending school. When considering whether your student should study abroad and discussing the pros and cons of studying abroad, there’s a lot to consider.

Here are some factors that should play into you and your child’s decision on whether they should study abroad.

Finances

When thinking about the financial aspect of studying abroad, you and your student will want to look at the costs of the program or university abroad compared to a regular semester at their college. The cost of studying abroad will be affected by numerous factors, including the length of time spent abroad, how far ahead your student plans their study abroad experience, and where they’d like to study abroad.

Some schools also require a fee or that tuition be paid even when the student is having a semester abroad; that being said, at some colleges, a semester spent abroad will actually cost practically the same as if your child had stayed on campus, in terms of tuition and board — especially if they choose to study abroad in a developing country.

Additionally, the exchange rate in the country your child may study in can affect whether it’s more expensive, less, or about the same price as staying at the college for the semester. Lastly, if your child lives off-campus, you’ll want to discuss whether they’d be able to sublet their room so they wouldn’t have to pay for it while they’re not there and think about how much living expenses may be abroad. There are also many study abroad scholarships available, both nationally and through individual colleges, so it’s worth your and your child’s time to look into applying to those to help offset costs.

Personality

Studying abroad isn’t for everyone. Does your child enjoy going new places and not knowing anyone? Some people thrive on those sorts of experiences and flourish in new settings while others may not be as comfortable jetting off by themselves and landing in unknown terrain. Talk to your child and discuss whether this opportunity would be a good fit for their personality, push them out of their comfort zone in a good way, or whether it’s not the type of experience they’re really cut out for. They may not be mature or confident enough yet to handle a study abroad experience.

If your student does want to study abroad but feels a semester abroad may be too much to handle, there are shorter-term study abroad programs that occur over school breaks and vacations you can look into together and consider.

Class Scheduling

Can your child study abroad and still manage to take all the courses they’re required to take for their degree and graduate on time? If class scheduling isn’t managed carefully, starting from practically their first semester freshman year, studying abroad may end up delaying your child’s graduation from school. When discussing with your student whether they should study abroad, ask them how being away from their college for a semester will affect their graduation date and whether they’ll be able to take the classes they need to at the university they’d attend abroad.

Some classes aren’t offered every semester or at the times they’d need and there’s often courses students need to take before they take other ones. If your student needs to stay on-campus a certain semester to take various classes, explore other opportunities they might be able to study abroad or whether they’d be able to take some summer or extra courses one semester to stay on track.

Academic Abilities

Is your child a good student or do they have trouble getting good grades and staying on top of their schoolwork? If your student is struggling academically or has in the past, studying abroad may not be the best idea. Besides having to juggle classes abroad, your child will also have to navigate and balance other activities and responsibilities more than they would at their regular school as they’ve established more of a routine and are more familiar with their settings and expectations.

In some cases, when a student studies abroad, their schedule actually affords them more free time and they take fewer classes than they would in a regular semester at college.

Reasons

If your child wants to study abroad because they want to be able to bop around Europe on the weekends and view the abroad experience as a vacation of sorts, you shouldn’t support their desire to study abroad. Studying abroad can be an enriching and enlightening experience that broadens a student’s horizons and perspective, but it really depends on their attitude going in.

Studying abroad shouldn’t be viewed as a way to take it easy or to goof off for a semester but rather an opportunity to be exposed to new cultures, peoples, and environments. Discuss with your child why they want to study abroad and where they’d want to study abroad to ascertain whether they want to study abroad for the right reasons.

All in all, considering study abroad for your student is a big decision that you and your child should make together and only after a thorough discussion of all the above factors.

Visit uloop.com for more college news and to search for off-campus housing, tutors near campus, study abroad opportunities, textbooks, roommates, job and internships for college students, and more.

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